English 中文网 漫画网 爱新闻iNews 翻译论坛
当前位置: Language Tips> 译通四海> Columnist 专栏作家> Zhang Xin

A translator's career conundrum

[ 2009-03-24 11:07]     字号 [] [] []  
免费订阅30天China Daily双语新闻手机报:移动用户编辑短信CD至106580009009

A translator's career conundrumLuke asks: I am an ordinary translator from a university not famous. For this career, I don’t know its prospect. I am not that excellent I think, and when getting older, is it fit for people to translate? What is the way ahead? How to develop the career of a translator, or what to do next?!

My comments: First of all, you seem to have something against being an ordinary translator and having graduated from a university not famous. So for starters, let me make this perfectly clear: It’s great to be ordinary – that way you don’t have to face extra-ordinary problems extraordinary people face. It’s great, for example, to have graduated from a university not famous. You see, people often mistake famous with being good. And had you graduated from Bei Da, for example and had you been any good at work at all, Bei Da will take all the credit. They’d say: “Oh, it’s nothing. Luke’s nothing special. He’s from Bei Da. Anyone from Bei Da is supposed to have done what he did.”

A translator's career conundrum

On the other hand, your coming from a “university not famous” gives you an advantage. For example, should you become any good (which I believe you shall as should anyone equally ordinary) they’d give the credit to you. People would say: “Luke’s extraordinary. He’s from this what’s-its-name, a university unbeknownst to anyone and yet he’s turned into one of greatest translators we’ve ever seen.”

Not that you want to turn yourself into one of the greatest translators they’ve ever seen, but for the sake of argument, there’s nothing to stop you if that’s what you want it. Being ordinary is not going to stop it. Cassius Clay was ordinary – he became Muhammad Ali. And he never went to university, not even one not famous.

Except that you don’t seem to want it, and that’s the rub.

You seem to have a lot of doubt about yourself, what you want for your own future and even the future of translation the business as a whole, for what otherwise are these talks of “its prospect”, “getting older”, “is it fit” for?

In between the lines, it appears you worry a lot about the past (having come from humble roots, a university not famous, etc.) and the future (what it holds for you).

The way I see it, you should be worrying about what you’re doing now instead of the future or the past. The past is but a memory. It’s not real. If I, for example, chose not to believe any of your stories, could you prove to me all the pain you seem to have suffered from attending a university not famous? No, I’m not talking about your diploma. I’m talking about feelings and emotions, the experience. Could you re-live it for me, with each and every particular?

Similarly the future isn’t real. It doesn’t exist except as an idea in your head. My point is, if you enjoy having ideas about the future, such as it is, why not create some nicer scenarios?

Such as?

Well, such as one day, after going about business on a daily basis, I mean, going out of your way to master two languages – which is what translation is essentially about – you’ll become, to borrow your word, famous. You’ll be a translator to the Premier, for instance, and get to accompany him to all sorts of meetings and important official functions such as luncheons at which everybody eats while you do the talk to and fro, back and forth.

And some day, you grow tired of this famous and yet foodless-at-lunch-hour type of life. You quit the job to start your own business, setting up a consultancy because, while lending your brain over the years to others – which is also what translation is essentially about – you have become an all-around erudite over politics, business, sports and music.

And you have all sorts of hobbies, too, movies and theatre, mountain climbing. In time, you’ll quit all business in the ordinary sense and begin to enjoy life as you like it, emotionally and experientially, not just from the point of view of having to eke out a living doing jobs as necessary hardships.

I mean sometime down the line you’ll perhaps realize that what you are is bigger than who you are as a translator, famous or notorious. Your life is more than your career, whatever it is. You are alive and not just alive to achieve professional accomplishments – and certainly not to worry about not being able to achieve even that.

In short, instead of asking “when getting older, is it fit for people to translate”, you ask: why should I want to stick with this job when I’m old while I could do something else and have greater fun?

That sounds good, you say, but “what to do next”?

What to do NOW, you mean? That’s for you to say. You are the translator. It’s your life. You should know.

If I were to suggest, however, I’d say making an honest effort at mastering two languages is perhaps a good place to start.

And that shall be a lot to focus your mind on for now, don’t you think?

P.S. Don’t forget to develop your spare-time hobbies. Life happens to you from all around, everywhere all together at once. Don’t wait till you retire professionally to pay attention to other aspects of your life.

Do it now. This way, you’ll not only have a future, but be able to enjoy your future now.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


Thorn in the side

Rose-tinted view

Home truth 家丑不可外扬

Spin doctor